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DSC Tech Library

CRM Solutions

CRM Customer Relationship Management This section of our technical library presents information and documentation relating to CRM Solutions and Customer relationship management software and products. Providing customer service is vital to maintaining successful business relationships. Accurate and timely information provided in a professional manner is the key to any business and service operation. Our CRM software application TELEMATION, was developed with this in mind. But the ability to change is just as important in this ever changing business environment. Telemation call center software was designed from the very beginning for this environment. Many call center managers, with unique and changing requirements, have chosen and continue to use our CRM software as their solution of choice. Our contact center CRM solution is ideally suited for call center service bureaus.


Web Enabled Customer Relationship Management: Today's Reality - Tomorrow's Vision

By Doug Tanoury

This is a look at Customer Relationship Management (CRM) in its present state and where it is going based on the migration of current applications to the Internet, and the next generation of web-based tools. While there changes in technology open new opportunities for visionary companies, there are distinct dangers to those who bring old service paradigms to the new media. The Internet has set new standards for responsiveness, quality and customer segmentation. A candid and honest look at successes and failures is provided here and a look to where current technology and trends will take Customer Relationship Management (CRM) in coming years.

The cult of the customer has been celebrated by American industry for the last fifteen years, with endless hype by business experts, consultants and academics. Terms like loyalty, lifetime value, service culture, customer focused and customer-centric have worked their way into the everyday business vocabulary. A great many careers have been made heralding the age of the customer, highlighting their importance and urging corporations to listen to, capture and leverage their voice. With endless variation service models and relationship management methodologies ranging from the micro-segmentation of 1to1 to the hi-tech, high-touch models of the dot.coms. In all this scurrying to get close to our customers an industry has been spawned called Customer Relationship Management (CRM).

The entire industry is based on the simple and brilliant premise, that if I know something about a customer I will be able to sell to them with greater success and service their needs with greater efficiency. At the core of this premise is the know something. This knowledge or information about an individual customer is precious and is the fundamental foundation of Customer Relationship Management (CRM). This know something also implies on using the knowledge in a do something initiative. This do something is a change of message, communication or treatment based on the unique characteristics known about each customer. The measurement aspect is implied: the know something and the do something set the stage to answer the next question related to basic measurement which is, Howíd I do? What needs to change from a know something or a do something standpoint? Does customer information or knowledge need modification or enrichment? Does the individual strategy or execution require modification?

Today, the technology required to support Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications is costly and highly specialized, as are the management and operational talent required for its successful execution. There are consulting practices that specialize in the technology of CRM and others that focus on the management and operational aspects. They are part of the hierarchy and propagators of the hype that celebrates and surrounds Customer Relationship Management (CRM).

Where the rubber meets the road, where customers and corporations come together, is point where many plans come unraveled and the most fruitful visions wither and die. For the most part major corporations have place their treasured and precious customers in the hands customer contact centers staffed by entry-level staff, poorly paid, poorly trained, lacking the proper information or tools to perform their jobs. These customer contact centers are plagued by high turnover, poor quality, poor performance and are hampered by poor processes. It is no wonder that the standard of service delivered by the vast majority of customer contact centers is uniformly poor. The instantaneous access to information and support at provided by many dot-coms has set the standard for customer service and technical assistance on the Internet. Aspects of online culture demand high touch and highly personalized service. The dot.coms have revitalized and reinvented customer Relationship management (CRM). The most notable success stories come from the newly arrived doc-coms. It is both an unfortunate and unsettling fact that successful practitioners of this movement are somewhat rare outside the Internet community.

Tools and software applications that fall under the Customer Relationship Management umbrella are specialized applications comprised of a hodge-podge of client/server and web based solutions:

  • Sales Force Automation (SFA)
  • Customer Management Systems
  • Help Desk Systems
  • Field Service Systems
  • Other Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems
While many of these systems solve isolated operational issues, the customer intelligence and hence their real value is never realized and the knowledge that they contain is never leveraged. We donít use what we know about our customers to its full value in most cases. Does the customer information get into a centralized corporate customer database? Often it does not. Is the customer profiled and do we execute a strategy based on the profile? The answers are often no. Is information about each customer accessible throughout the corporation? Often this knowledge is not leveraged.

The Internet has connected diverse databases and applications that were originally deployed as pocket solutions. Islands of information have been bridged and enabled by the Internet. Intranets that allow internal sharing of customer information, Extranets that embrace dealers and resellers in collaborative e-Commerce sales models, and finally the consumer shopping via the Internet.

Communication when the customer wants and in the manner that they prefer is key to energizing the service delivery model. Communications technologies as well as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications seem to be converging on the Internet. These include:
  • Telephone
  • Fax
  • Interactive Dialog/Chat Window
  • Forum/Chat Room
  • Newsgroup
  • e-Mail
  • Online Meeting/e-Conference
  • Video Teleconference
  • Voice Messaging
  • Video Messaging
Customers communicate via the channel they prefer and companies now can communicate with their customers via channels that the customers prefer.

While all of these communications methods can be completed via the Internet today, there are a few problems restricting their growth to some degree. There are few products that will do them all, there is a lack of management tools to measure and monitor activity and while all of these channels are converging on the Internet these forms of communication are by no means ubiquitous. Some customers will not use the Internet to have voice conversations, some will write a traditional letters rather than send an e-Mail.

This is the great dichotomy, the vast chasms between greatness of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) vision and the impoverishment of its execution. Corporations while they have spared no expense in technology and CRM systems have not addressed the process or people side of the service delivery model. They talk the talk, when it comes to customer relationship management; by they have not walked the walk. They have not but their money where their mouth is. Donít ask the CEO how effective they have been, as their customers. The question that should be posed to CEOís and senior managers, and one should hold their feet to the fire for the answer, is for every dollar spent on the CRM service delivery model, how many dollars of revenue are generated.

What is promised by Customer Relationship Management (CRM) strategies is that increased knowledge about your customers allows you to customize, tailor and target services to them. This increases efficiency, quality and satisfaction and thus engenders loyally based on an enriched customer experience.

Return-On-Investment (ROI) and business case aside, most Customer Relationship Management (CRM) initiatives in major corporations have failed to deliver adequate levels of quality and service. The dollars spent are for the most part wasted. The financial impact of any customer service related initiate in extremely difficult to measure. For years, I have seen managers shrug, and ask how do you put a dollar figure on customer loyalty, improved service quality and satisfaction. These are indeed difficult and it is much easier to measure the impact of cost reduction for these types of projects. A before and after financial snapshot are taken and the dollar savings is summed up in a boardroom presentation. I agree it is difficult to put a dollar value on loyalty and satisfaction, but I think these kinds of measurements are part of any properly designed Customer Relationship Management (CRM) implementation.

Donít let anyone wiggle out of an ROI analysis, ask for a dollar value of loyalty and the financial impact of satisfying customers. Donít base the business case solely on the cost side, but look for justification on the revenue side. If you canít measure the revenue side you are unlikely to significantly capture your customerís heart and mind. Quantify these service delivery factors financially and measure performance against them. Is the customer better served as a result of this project? is a question that executive managers must answer in the wake of these initiatives. Can I measure their loyalty, satisfaction and goodwill toward this company in concrete contributions to the bottom line? In most cases the answer is no, and I will venture to say that you are involved in no more than cost cutting.

If revenue has not been optimized or increased by your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) initiative, it has failed. The entire basis of the initiative is to gather knowledge of your customers, to gain intelligence that can be leveraged in the marketplace. The basis and the mainstay of Customer Relationship Management is knowledge driven and information intensive, so if dollar signs cannot be attributed to loyalty, satisfaction and improved service and communications, it is time to go back to the drawing board. The inability to measure benefits in financial terms here indicates significant design flaws in the business architecture plans of the initiative.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a business strategy that is facilitated and enabled by specialized technology. In conjunction with deploying new technology and initiating information engineering and knowledge management, no project of this scope should be launched if it does not address re-engineering processes across the service delivery model and the enablement and optimization of the people who do the work and the leadership that oversee it. This includes sales and marketing groups and contact or call center staff, internal IT support groups as well as field sales and service groups.

Industry experts are predicting that web enabled self-service applications will dramatically improve service and reduce cost. The true acid test will be how the new web based self-service applications that allow me to shop for a product, place my own orders, make payment arrangements and check on the status of my order, will improve the bottom line. Not by cost reduction, because frankly, that is just too easy and often never touches the customer in a fundamentally different way, but by adding increased revenue by selling more. That in itself is the real value of any technical improvement. It lets you do more of what you do better.

Across the board Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications are becoming we based and being implemented using a combination of Intranet, Extranet and Internet. This simplifies the transportation of information, which is the lifeblood of knowledge intensive applications. Advanced web based applications will have increased functionality and serve to reduce cost. These benefits are a certainty irrespective of the business design plans, but will they increase revenue, and if so by how much?

In conjunction with the advent of web based self-service applications and the ability to derive customer specific metrics and information, is the enablement and empowerment of the customer to perform tasks traditionally done through a contact center and assisted by staff: resolve product or billing issues, shop, get order status, research and most importantly purchase.

Never before has the opportunity existed to customize a customer experience based on what we know about a customers preferences. The Internet is the ideal medium for Customer Relationship Marketing (CRM) and provides the ability to intelligently present information and products in micro-segment fashion that are uniquely target to one consumer. The legendary and mythical segment of one that has been heralded by many for years has never quite materialized.

Admit it, when dealing with 10 million consumers, creating a unique and customized segment of individual is a bit far fetched, but with current web based applications it is now possible. Not only can you customize a web site based on what is known about a customer who is browsing there, but also you can target specific communications and products to their email address in a format that is optimized for what you know about them.

The Internet is a unending source of information about customers, some is self-identified by the customer providing information, other information is provided by the self service applications and simply monitoring what the customer does within our web sites. It is knowing what products were looked at, what was downloaded and what sections of a web-based storefront were visited. The Internet is a micro-marketers dream come true. It is a world where customers express their interests, preferences and propensities with every click of their mouse.

The gathering of Internet information about customers allows messages to be finely targeted via email and web based ads. No longer do inappropriate products or ads annoy them, but rather they are intrigued and enticed by what they see as communications that is meaningful. As a customer has been in contact with us via a variety of communications channels, the greater the depths and breadth of knowledge that we are able to accumulate. As we gain greater knowledge, it allows us to increase the height of our customized messages and communications to the consumer. They are flattered that we know enough about them to send them information, even if it is a pitch, that is personally meaningful and caries the message that it has been customized directly for them.

The most significant aspect of this trend toward massive and high customization of message is advertising written and aimed at a single individual. An ad that is delivered in pop-up window fashion or sent via multimedia e-Mail. Imagine an add not created for mass-market media, but aimed at one individual. The shell of this micro-marketing message would be created by technology and it would be customized based on unique profile characteristics of an individual customer.

The concept of massive customization based on customer profile information means that not only is it possible to customize multimedia or text based email messages, but websites can be customized based on what we know about and individual customer. An example would be if I knew that Spanish was the language preference of one customer and French was the preference of another. A company could change the language and other cultural aspects of my website to customize it based on profile data we have regarding an individual customer.

The in an optimum environment rich with customer information no two individuals would see the same web site, see the same pop-up or banner ads or receive the same email message. We can promote the same product in a unique way to each consumer. The legendary segment of one that is the mythical Eldorado of modern marketing is now a reality. In its full implementation across the Internet, the same web site will have a unique look and feel and unique content for every visitor based on their unique profile. Imagine a virtual world, like the real world, that looks unique to every individual based on their characteristics, predilections, demographics, psychographics and a host of other personal factors.

Great diversity could be churned out of custom-view generating software. In all the languages of humanity, with custom graphics and text that is most pertinent to one individual. A web site view created by profile knowledge of the individual and detailed information of their preferences predispositions and predilections. You have just glimpsed the Internet of the new millennium, massively customized, precision targeted and totally pertinent based on what we know about our customers.

Every indication is that current Customer Relationship Management (CRM) functions and features will be built into or blend into Internet applications, web sites and self-service tools.

This is the basis for building loyalty. In the virtual or real environment, customers respond in the same way and their loyalty is captured by intelligent dealing and meaningful communication based on what they know about the seller and what the seller knows about them.

Behind the self-service aspects of the Internet, is the ability to target customers at the micro segment level in multimedia form. They can be sent uniquely customized messages based on what is known about them. A multi-media email message may contain jazz music that plays for one customer, classical music for another, and blues for yet another. The artwork and images included in the message may be customized to suite age, gender, psychographics and other knowledge about and individual customer. The higher the degree of customization, the more meaningful and impactful the communication becomes.

The degree of web site and communications customization are directly and positively correlated to sales revenue and loyalty. Some companies are beginning customization of web sites for customers based on an interest in a particular product. This branded flow or branded view of web sites follows the consumer for their entire visit. The know something is the product the consumer expressed and interest so we color the consumerís view with a brand message throughout.

It would be much more impactful to color or brand a view of a website based not a product, but on what we know about the consumer. This demonstrates a great change in vision and a shift of emphasis and importance from the corporate us to the consumer you. This shift is the first step to building loyalty. If we know that a consumer happens to like alternative music, modern art, has an advanced degree in psychology and know what competitorís model they currently own, itís possible to customize their visit to offer a consistent view that is unique to them, a view that is branded not to our product, but one that is created based on knowledge of the customer.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is evolving from a evolving from a staff intensive business strategy based on specialized applications to a web based strategy for massive customization both in web site presentation, e-Mail communication and promotional banner and pop-up advertisements. It is an evolution that is enabled by web-technology that will allow the creation of micro-segments, precision targeting and full view of the customer across all the contact points across an enterprise.

Doug Tanoury
Doug Tanoury is a consultant and industry expert that has been a transforming force in Customer Relationship Management. He has reshaped the customer experience at Fortune 100 companies and has worked in this field at Bell Operating Companies, AT&T Communications, Electronic Data Systems, MCI Telecommunications, eLoyalty and Siebel Systems.